The picture at left could be symbolic of the main characters in In the Dark. Not that Suzanne (AKA Desert Rose) ever actually wears a blindfold in the book...
Hmm. That would have been interesting, wouldn't it?
But, as I was saying, Suzanne might just as well have been blindfolded, given how she willfully chooses not to see Conrad for what he is; as can be seen in this scene here taken from shortly after their first meeting...
“Isn’t this place fantastic?” Suzanne sighed, as they strolled in the shadows of towering redwoods, breathing in all the cool, night scents. The fog was settling in—between that and the trees, it should have been too dark to see. It wasn’t. Flickering torches, set along the winding paths that cut through the property took care of that. Given the costume she was wearing and the autumn breeze, she should have been shivering with cold. She wasn’t. The man walking beside her—with his electric voice and simmering smile—took care of that. “I don’t believe any of the rumors about it being haunted though, do you? I think it’s more like...well, like being in fairy tale, or something.”
The sound of Conrad’s soft laughter made her cringe. He smiled indulgently. “A very dark fairy tale, perhaps, yes? Populated with monsters and demons and things too terrible to mention.”
Suzanne bit her lip. Fairy tales. What must he think of her, hearing her talk about such silly things? He was older—how much older, she couldn’t say, but definitely over thirty—and more worldly and cultured and altogether fascinating than anyone she’d ever met before. And here she was, when she should be trying to act as sophisticated as possible, saying things that only a baby would think to say. “I just meant...well, it’s just such a...such a gas to be here, don’t you think so too? I wonder who owns it?”
He slanted a curious look her way. “Don’t you know? Who brought you here, anyway?”
“No one, really. I was with some friends the other day and I guess they’d overheard some other people talking about it. They said they throw parties like this almost every weekend and that it was a real happening scene. So I thought I’d come and see for myself.”
“A happening scene. I see.” They walked a few more steps before Conrad asked, almost hesitantly, “So...is that...is that a good thing then?”
“Conrad! Of course it is!” Laughter bubbled up before she even considered that, perhaps, he was making fun of her. But the look in his eyes told her he wasn’t. “Look around you,” she said, slipping her arm free of his so she could twirl in place, her arms spread wide. “It’s all so...dreamy.” Older and worldly he might be, but there were still things he didn’t know about. She liked that. Liked the rush of power she got from the thought there were things she could teach him, things she could show him and tell him about—new things, things he might never even think of on his own. The realization left her so jubilant, she didn’t even protest when he took hold of her hand and pulled her into his arms.
His kiss was nothing like she’d expected. Earthy and dark, with just a hint of buried sweetness; and a taste that was almost familiar. Tempting, yet somehow...forbidden. Like the baker’s chocolate she’d once watched her foster mother use to make a cake.
The tantalizing scent as it melted in the top of the double boiler had made Suzanne salivate. But, no matter how much she’d begged for a piece, she wasn’t allowed even a taste of it. So, that night, she’d crept down to the kitchen and stolen a square. It, too, was nothing like she’d expected. Bitter, intense, but exciting, all the same. Like her first sip of coffee. Or her first taste of love.
The press of Conrad’s mouth on hers was hypnotic. She couldn’t break the spell his kiss laid on her even if she’d wanted to; no more than she could stop the moan that crept up her throat when, after what seemed like an eternity, he pulled away. His hand slid across her bare back, took hold of her hair and tugged. She let her head fall back as his open mouth ghosted, warm and wet, over her neck, as though he was searching for just the right spot. Her heart seemed to stop. The night grew still. Even the breeze seemed to settle as she waited, breathless for...something.
It never came.
Instead, Conrad’s mouth reversed course, traveling back up her neck to her ear where he whispered. “So much sweetness. It would be a shame to rush what should be savored. You’ll spend the night with me.”
That stopped her—almost. Stifling a gasp, she pushed out of his arms. His eyes blazed red-gold in the light reflecting from the torches and his expression was one of faint surprise, as though her actions startled him, as though he hadn’t been expecting her to show even this much resistance.
But, why shouldn’t she resist? He was The Unknown personified. So much older, worldly, cultured...different. So very unexpected.
On the other hand, why would she resist? Wasn’t it for exactly this reason she’d left the no-name town she’d grown up in, vowing to put her past, with all its unhappiness, behind her? Wasn’t it for exactly this reason she’d come to the city; or that she’d come here tonight, to this very house—to experience life, to taste freedom, to embrace the unknown?
“All right. I’ll stay.” Nodding assent she melted back against him, lifting her face for his kiss. It was even headier this time. Darker, somehow. Definitely intoxicating. It made her head spin and her eyes grow heavy. She felt her knees give way an instant before he lifted her into his arms, as though she weighed nothing at all.
“Just so you know,” he murmured, his voice laced with amusement, as he carried her back towards the house. “I wasn’t offering you a choice.”
A choice of what, she wondered, lazily. But, nestled safely in his arms, she didn’t care.
She did know one moment of anxiety however, when he stopped in the hallway to speak to Armand. Something in the way the other man looked at her, the predatory gleam in his eyes, the subtle flaring of his nostrils, sent shivers running down her spine; had her closing her eyes again, more tightly than before. Had her pressing her face into the silk of Conrad’s shirt, curling instinctively closer to him. Like the rabbits she’d once watched in the fields back home, hunkering down on the ground when a hawk passed overhead.
When they started up the stairs leading to the mansion’s upper floors she roused herself enough to ask. “Where are we going?”
“I’m taking you to my room.” A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he watched her, as though awaiting her reaction.
She blinked in surprise. “Your room? Do you live here?”
“I do,” he replied, his smile even more evident. “I own this house. This happening scene into which you’ve stumbled? It belongs to me. And, you, my sweet, little uninvited one, are about to pay the penalty for trespassing.”
“Things too terrible to mention,” she murmured, trying to think back to what they’d said earlier, causing Conrad to almost miss a step.
His eyebrows rose as he stopped in his tracks and looked at her. “I sincerely hope not. Is that how it seems to you?”
Yawning, she closed her eyes and nestled closer. “No. You said that. I said it was like a dream.”
* * * * *
To learn more about this series, click HERE